The Lanka Academic

VOL. 5, NO. 244

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Rotten ropes, ramshackle gallows, inexperienced executioner - Sri Lanka 's prison system prepares for a return to capital punishment
Associated Press, Sat December 4, 2004 21:11 EST . DILIP GANGULY - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) The country's 25-year-old executioner has no experience. The hanging ropes have rotted and the bolts on the gallows have rusted. While no one had been executed in Sri Lanka - since 1976, courts have continued to issue the death penalty.

But on Nov. 21, High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya a jurist known for his tough verdicts against gangsters and drug dealers was gunned down with his bodyguard. The next day, President Chandrika Kumaratunga announced she was lifting the moratorium on the death penalty.

Today, there are 49 condemned prisoners whose clemency appeals have been rejected. There are 152 others who have been sentenced to death, but whose appeals are pending.

The island's history of executions goes back to when Sri Lanka - was the British colony known as Ceylon. The first hanging was held Feb. 11, 1884, at Welikada Prison, and the last was June 23, 1976, nearly 20 years after Sri Lanka - achieved independence. Over that time, a total of 1,868 men and women were executed.

The sudden change in policy came with a sharp rise in crime on this island of 19 million people. A civil war now largely calmed by a cease-fire has torn at the country since 1983, killing some 65,000 people and resulting in thousands of military desertions.

``Right now we have 30,000 deserters,'' said Rienzie Perera, the police spokesman. ``This is one of the main reasons for the crime chart to rise,'' he said. The war has also made it easy for criminals to buy weapons, from the smallest pistol to the largest machine gun.

It's unclear how popular the decision to lift the moratorium is in Sri Lanka - , but residents are certainly frustrated with spiraling crime rates.

``What is important is that the government has finally realized that the death penalty should be given and executed in countries like our,'' said Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, deputy president of the Sri Lanka - Bar Association and a criminal defense lawyer. He had few concerns about how the prison system appeared ill-prepared to actually carry out an execution, saying ``Those matters can be tackled.''

But not everyone was pleased with the sudden change.

``It is a knee-jerk reaction'' to the judge's killing, said Rohan Ederesinghe, who heads the Center for Policy Alternative, a good governance organization.

For prison officials, the quick shift means they can't even find proper hanging rope.

India has been approached to sell some of the specially made cord, as has China, but the deal is so small that prison authorities here are still waiting for replies.

``Nothing has come of it yet,'' Mazrook said.

And at the two prisons where there are gallows, there is no one experienced to do the job.

Wijetunge, who works in the 160-year-old British-built Welikada, has the title of executioner, but he got the job in 2000 when his father who never performed an execution either retired from the position.

But despite all the problems, Marzook insists the prison system will be ready when the time comes.

``When I get the order to go ahead, I will ensure that all systems are go.''
Published: Sun Dec 5 01:04:41 EST 2004

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Hanging onto hanging to fight crime in Sri Lanka :, dec 5. Sri Lanka first announced lifting a moratorium on executions after an Indian woman was raped and killed while on her honeymoon here. The gruesome murder of Rita John in 1998 shocked the nation and sparked public cries to hang criminals convicted of heinous acts, but despite promises to carry out capital punishment, no condemned prisoner has been hanged so far. The threat to bring back capital punishment, stopped since 1976, appears to be a knee jerk reaction of governments unable to stem a wave of heinous crime, increasing in its brutality every day. For President Chandrika Kumaratunga, bringing back death penalty has been relatively simple. She has done it five times in the past five years, but not really signed the death warrant of any criminal. More...
Published: Sun Dec 5 13:53:33 EST 2004 Back to the top

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Top Indian astrologer arrested for sexual abuse
Gulf News, Dec 4 . Colombo: A high profile Indian astrologer has been arrested following charges of sexual abuse of women who sought his services. Swamiji Kishore Shastri, who advertised himself as India's famous astrologer, was arrested by a special police team from Slave Island in Colombo after they deployed two female decoys acting as mother and daughter. He was arrested on Friday and was due to be produced before a magistrate yesterday and remanded until December 10. The astrologer, who offered to solve problems related to love marriages, divorce, remarriage, failure of love, higher education and business problems, targeted wealthy women who called at his five-star apartment block. Among those who fell victim were a gem merchant's wife, an army officer's wife and other wealthy women, police investigations have revealed. More...
Published: Sun Dec 5 01:11:02 EST 2004 Back to the top

Indian sorcerer arrested in Lanka :, Dec 4. Colombo, Dec 4 : An Indian, who claims himself to be a 'sorcerer' able to predict the future, was today arrested on charges of rape here, police said... Back to the top

Bharathiraja moved by LTTE s sacrifices, Dec. 5. Tamil Film Director Bharathiraja, has said he was deeply moved by the "sacrifices" made by Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka... Back to the top

Sri Lanka limps back to normalcy
Dawn, COLOMBO, Dec 3. Shops and offices reopened and public transport was slowly returning to normal on Friday in Sri Lanka's embattled northern and eastern regions after a rebel-sponsored work stoppage came to an end, officials said... Back to the top

Massive rise in Sri Lankan firepower amid peace, December 04. Sri Lanka’s armed forces substantially expanded their offensive capability after the ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers was signed in February 2002, a book published by a senior United States military analyst says... Back to the top

Bradman thought Muralitharan's delivery was OK, says book publisher
Associated Press, Sat December 4, 2004 17:11 EST . - - ``Bradman said to me that he believed the future of the game is not with England, it's with Sri Lanka - , India and Pakistan,'' Thompson said... Back to the top

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches book in Sri Lanka :, Dec 4 . Colombo, Dec 4 : Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Mani Shankar Aiyar today released his book "Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist" here... Back to the top

LTTE man killed by rival faction:, Dec 4. A member of the intelligence wing of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers faction has been killed, reportedly by the rival faction... Back to the top

Sri Lanka eyes more foreign investment in 2005:, Dec 4. Colombo, Dec 4 : Sri Lanka expects foreign investment to grow by 50 percent to 300 million US dollars in 2005 with good performance in its construction, apparel and tourism sectors, reports Xinhua... Back to the top

Muralitharan will tour New Zealand, but may not play in tests
Associated Press, Sat December 4, 2004 00:41 EST . - - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan cricket selectors have recalled middle-order batsman Russel Arnold and fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara for the tour to New Zealand, while retaining spin bowler Muthiah Muralitharan in the reserve list... Back to the top

Miss World goes high-tech, letting viewers help pick winner
Associated Press, Fri December 3, 2004 22:17 EST . STEPHANIE HOO - Associated Press Writer - SANYA, China (AP) Miss Sri Lanka - Anarkalli Jay thinks it's a great idea that the Miss World pageant decided to let its television audience help pick the winner... Back to the top

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